The Busy Signals

Pure Energy

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Pure Energy Review

by Dan LeRoy

The cut and paste hip-pop ethic of artists like Beck was quickly absorbed by the mainstream, but the format's unpredictability also guarantees there will still be stranger practitioners lurking at the edges of the musical landscape. One of the most interesting is Minnesota one-man band Howard W. Hamilton III, and the jumbled-up assemblage of this album -- a few new tracks plus B-sides and other oddities -- unsurprisingly suits his magpie style just fine. Hamilton's unshakable pop sense offers some recognizable reference points amidst the found sounds; "Autopilot," included in two different mixes, features a Prince-ly groove similar to the spacier moments on Sign o' the Times (think "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker"), while the previously unreleased "Better Books" could qualify as a Big Audio Dynamite demo. And the wonderful "Too Much Togetherness," an ode to solitary pleasures ("Too much togetherness make it hard to get to know her/Try a little loneliness"), has a gentle hook that's as nagging as anything in the Top 40. But things turn more disorienting elsewhere, with snatches of everything from dub to avant-garde soundscapes blurring the outlines of the dozen brief, lo-fi songs, most of which were recorded on iBook and eight-track. Improving with repeated plays, this collection is well worth the time it takes to get oriented to Hamilton's unique vision.

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